A prominent Black women’s group has joined the chorus of voices demanding justice for a teenage sex trafficking victim in Iowa who has been ordered to pay six figures to the family of her rapist.
The case that added insult to literal injury centers on Pieper Lewis, a 17-year-old Black girl who was initially charged with first-degree murder after she stabbed and killed her 37-year-old accused rapist, Zachary Brooks. Pieper was 15 years old at the time of the June 2020 killing.
Instead of recognizing Pieper as defending herself from the harm of rape, she was charged last year with involuntary manslaughter and willful injury and faced 10 years in prison for each charge. On Tuesday, Pieper was sentenced to five years of closely supervised probation and ordered to pay $150,000 restitution to Brooks’ family.
It was in that context that In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda — a group that champions reproductive rights for Black women — demanded that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds pardon Pieper.
“The conviction and sentencing of Pieper Lewis are beyond unjust; they are criminal. A Black teenager was trafficked and raped — those facts are not disputed — yet the American criminal legal system chose to prosecute, convict and persecute her for escaping her captor,” In Our Own Voice’s President and CEO Marcela Howell said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “The decision to prosecute Lewis and the subsequent sentence sends a clear message to Black women, girls and gender expansive individuals — the law will not protect you — and if you defend yourself, you will pay a high price.”
Howell referred to the payment imposed on Pieper as “a ransom” and said the teenager is the one who “should be compensated,” not her rapist’s family.
“This case is emblematic of the systemic racism that is the foundation of the criminal legal system,” Howell continued. “Police violence kills Black people every day, largely unchecked. Mass incarceration violates Black bodies and decimates Black families and communities while lining the pockets of the white criminal industrial complex. Prosecutors and courts terrorize and condemn Black victims instead of protecting them.”
Howell added: “We stand with Pieper Lewis and call on the governor of Idaho to issue a pardon that lifts this financial burden. That, at least, would be a step toward justice.”
In Our Voice isn’t the only group rallying around Pieper.
An online fundraising effort has more than doubled its goal of $200,000 to help Pieper pay. As of Friday morning, a GoFundMe account set up for Pieper had raised more than $450,000 from more than 12,000 online donations.